Saturday, April 24, 2010

Standing Bear

In 1879, Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca tribe, took the United States government to trial and won. He was arrested near Fort Omaha while taking his son’s body from Oklahoma—where his tribe was forcibly relocated—to their ancestral lands along the Niobrara River between Nebraska and North Dakota. Judge Elmer Dundy defined Indians for the first time as persons under the law, and ruled that Standing Bear and his people were free to return home.

Standing Bear's story deeply inspired me. Why hadn't I heard it before reading Cowboys & Indians last summer? Why aren't kids taught about this American hero? I had to paint him.

This painting is constructed of three canvases & painted in acrylic. The upper portrait is 20 x 16", & has a lot of texture. The mid-section with the spirit bears is 10 x 30" The lower section, 11 x 14, has a copy of a treaty with the Ponca people. A hole is cut through the treaty & canvas, then woven over. It was featured at Sebastopol Gallery last fall.

His story also inspired Joe Starita. He wrote a book, I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice. I'd like to read it.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

for Wilma Mankiller

I was in the middle of this painting, Power from the Past, when I heard Wilma Mankiller had died. The spirits who led me to this image had given a tribute to her life, now diffused among all of us, like a great light. I feel the tremendous benefit of her work, insight & love. How she carries us, how she coaxes us to keep our minds clear & act for the good of all our people.

The pepperwood is an important Pomo medicine. Wilma gathered seaweed with Pomo women, using their beautiful baskets. She went to Kashia for the Strawberry Festival when Essie Parish was leading ceremony.

Pronghorn antelope once roamed Pomo land & I dream their return. This female stands in a wreath of pepperwood, lit by the sun, & surrounded by the mystery of the night sky. She calls the power of the past, as Wilma called the power of tribal tradition into modern activities & policies.

I dedicate this painting to Wilma Mankiller.